It's probably safe to assume that all conversations with Risa Heller begin this way: "Can we do it all on background and then you pick the quotes?"

After all, one does not rise to the top of the heap in New York's fiercely competitive public-relations world without a built-in skepticism of reporters bearing digital recorders.

Ms. Heller, a Michigan native, cut her teeth working for Sen. Chuck Schumer, who has developed a reputation for churning out sharp-tongued communications experts for years. But after two years of repping America's most omnipresent politician, she was ready to move on. Mr. Schumer bore no hard feelings: On the night of her going-away party, his car was on the fritz, as was his back, but he still made it out.

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